A Review {of sorts} of The Rock: Looking into Australia’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ from the edge of its wild frontier” by Aaron Smith

I finished reading The Rock nearly a week ago. Have castigated myself every day since for not writing this review. It should be simple but I’ve never found reviewing biographies and memoirs simple at all. I feel like I am judging a life! And yes, I know people do put their lives out there for others to judge but it makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

Aaron Smith was the editor/ only journalist/photographer of the Torres News, local paper for the Torres Strait Islanders and local Aboriginal peoples. The paper folder in 2019 after 63 years. Aaron was there from 2013 to the end.

The Torres Strait stretches from the tip of Northern Australia to nearly Papua New Guinea. It is an area of treacherous seas and shipwrecks and disputed territories. When I look at it on the map I think of pirates and Errol Flynn.  The crime TV show The Straits was set there. Aaron Smith mentions various lurid early 20th century novels set in the region, featuring misfits and head hunting. It has been a stepping stone between Australia and Asia, long before Australia was Australia. It has been a magnet for the Ms. The Missionaries, eager to spread god and control. The Murderers and Mad men, eager to get away. The Misfits, trying to find a place to fit. The Mercenaries eager to exploit.

In its simplest form The Rock is a memoir of one man’s time on Thursday Island. Moving from outsider to, well not quite an insider, but accepted nonetheless. His job was to report the local news, which included the raft of politicians, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison et al and their swoop in, swoop out visits. But The Rock is more than this, it delves into the history of the region, and of the whole of Australia itself. This is what I loved about it the most. A mixture of Aaron Smith’s personal history and that of Australia. Warts and all. He doesn’t shy away from our terrible, exploitative past, nor does he hold back in displaying the faults of today. Politicians arrive with a gaggle of minders, listening to no one. Outsiders go to work in the Torres Strait, ignoring the locals, the customs, the mythology central to life.  And the locals themselves carry on despite interference from the outside.

I highly recommend The Rock to anyone, but especially those who love a read that goes behind the scenes and gets you thinking about how power is wielded in this country. And perhaps, how one man got to be both the minister for indigenous affairs and for women, without being either. It’s mind-boggling!

The Rock is published by Transit Lounge Publishing and written by Aaron Smith.

I’d like to thank them both for my copy of the book. It has been a joy to read. My mind has now wandered to parts I’ve never visited. I now know more about things I thought I already knew {but didn’t} and feel better for it. Thank you.

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